The happiness of your life depends on your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly and take care you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature

Marcus Aurelius

This past summer, I made the decision to resume maintaining a daily journal. I committed to updating it every day, if only to say that the old broad who lives down the street blew the stop sign again or that I was too hungover to flirt with the red-headed Kroger cashier who eye-balled me. I have tried to keep a journal off and on since high school, but I have never regularly updated one. For some reason, I found it tedious, boring, and was too paranoid about somebody finding it. Those are all poor reasons not to have a journal.

The benefits from regularly maintaining a journal are enormous. You have a blank slate before you, into which you can pour out whatever you think or feel. You have a reliable outlet that you can count on after a particularly rough or confusing day. It becomes an excellent way of codifying your thoughts and processing your feelings. Instead of thinking something through, only to forget all or most of what you realized, you have writings you can come back at a later date.

Most importantly, if you commit to maintaining one, it forces you to commit to bettering your life. When you regularly have to report to your personal log about what you have done the past day or week, it forces you to either reconsider your goals or forces you to get busy working on them. For example, let’s say you scribble about your relations with your coworkers. You might note that you have certain behaviors or common reactions that either are not healthy, or cast yourself in a not-so-pleasant light. By detailing these interactions, you can evaluate what you are doing wrong and how to go about correcting said actions. You might leave a note to reread a certain chapter of How To Win Friends And Influence People; you might simply force yourself to think before you speak.

Further, a journal becomes a private confessional of sorts. It might be an inanimate object, but it becomes an extension of the self as you end up pouring what are the necessarily private contents of your mind. As such, it isn’t a confessional in the purest sense of the word, but rather a kind-of tribunal in which you judge and evaluate yourself. At times, a blank page might look like an accusation, blindly staring back at you asking you, What are you waiting for? Judging yourself harshly is never good, but a healthy sense of distance from yourself is necessary to properly adduce your path forward.

Before I list a few benefits of journal-keeping, I highly recommend that you have at least one or two people you feel comfortable with discussing some what you write about in your journal. A key problem with the modern man is we all too often think that we have to be perfect, have it together all the time and never let our guard down.

Wearing your heart on your sleeve is a sucker’s bet, but having one or two confidants—not your girlfriend or wife, please!—that you can be completely honest with is a great boon. You might have some great insight into yourself and that other person can let you know that you are running up the wrong flagpole or that you might be onto something substantive. If nothing else, it helps alleviate some of that toxic shame that many modern men feel about being a man.

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Here are some benefits I’ve noticed from keeping a daily personal journal:

It Betters Your Writing And Speaking Skills

Just by forcing yourself to write every day, you become a better writer simply by having to compose prose pleasing to you. Even if you only pen 500 words a day, that is enough to slowly hone your writing chops. Since you are only writing for yourself, you are freed from writing for an audience. You can get a good read on your ability to narrate events or muse about life and love. This bleeds into your ability to converse, as you expand your vocabulary as your writing skills increase. While reading does help more in this aspect, writing helps you find your own voice, which can translate into your actual voice.

Another point to consider is this: one of the first things you notice once you have a few weeks under your belt is that re-reading old posts can be a bit taxing. Personally, I have terrible penmanship, so I cleaned that up quickly (as a side note, I don’t trust a personal log on a computer, as I think we associate electronic writing with communicating with others, as all of us have hand-written letters or notes to ourselves). You notice certain tendencies you have writing. I have a two bad habits: dropping words and confusing verb tenses. Part of this is very mild dyslexia, but I committed to bettering my prose for myself.

This isn’t a bad goal, but it defeats the primary  purpose of journal-keeping. For a period of time, I was obsessed with what I would think of this entry a month later. Don’t do that. It prevented the free-flowing of thoughts and feelings. Let it all out. If you drop words or confuse verbs, who cares? The only audience is yourself. Writing and keeping at writing will improve your writing, but that is a side-effect of journal keeping really does for a man.

It Builds Confidence

Journal keeping builds confidence because it forces you to work towards goals. I have a problem with over-thinking issues and while I might have good realizations or workable solutions, they are just thoughts. By writing them down, it gives them more substance, as instead of merely thinking of doing something, it has a physical representation on a page.

There is a reason the Roosh Program has a strong emphasis on keeping a player journal: the reflection it causes doesn’t just help you sort out your thoughts, but it also gives you an outlet to reflect on and better yourself. Confidence—in my estimation—stems from having not just having a strong social network, but having both a reservoir of positive memories to draw on and the ability to honestly and accurately appraise yourself. A key component of true confidence to be able to appraise onesself in a neutral light–neither too harshly nor too lightly—but in a way that reflects an awareness of the self.

It Helps Build Social Awareness

In law school, Bill Clinton would keep note cards on all his fellow classmates and professors. It was his way of keeping all the information he learned about others straight in his mind. He was able to build his personal charisma because he was able to remember seemingly insignificant details about others. He wowed other people because of his ability to make you feel like you knew each other intimately, even if your interactions had only been fleeting and superficial.

As such, what has struck about keeping a log about your personal life, is that you will spend a great bit of time detailing your interactions with others. This is a good thing. Not only will you work through your problems and issues with others, but you will also learn to transcend the self-absorption of the mind and spend more time considering others’ viewpoints and why they are the way they are.

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It Keeps You On The Path Towards Your Goals

Some years back, I remember pulling off the interstate into a small town. Just inside the city limits was a billboard that read: If you are looking for a sign, this is it. No sponsored corporate or non-profit sign, just a no-name billboard that exhorted a person to get off their ass.

I recall thinking that was a pretty neat message, but like most messages in America, it is a fleeting message one most likely will not act on.

The problem for most people in America is that we love to talk about what we are going to do. Why do you think the gym fills with newbies the first two weeks after New Year’s Eve and goes back to normal later that month? We Americans love to talk about what we are going to do—or at least pretend to try for a couple weeks.

The problem with achieving goals or dreams is that it is necessarily a long journey. Christ, Americans wanted to liberate Iraq but within a year they were whining about occupying a foreign country. No wonder fat acceptance is gaining mainstream approval: it’s easier to demand other’s accept your inadequacies than confront them head-on.

Regardless, putting one foot in front of the other towards a goal is a daily struggle. Whether that is to open at least one female a day or to commit to at least working out 30 minutes a day, it can be tough to push forward with your goals. A journal can help because you always know you have a repository for whatever you might think or feel about your goals.

With a journal, you have written documentation of your struggles towards your goals. Since it is personal, it is only you evaluating your progress. As such, you only have to worry about your own valuation. While a man can be his harshest critic, a man can also appreciate the nuances of his own experience that others can’t.

When you push yourself to keep a daily journal, you force yourself to confront many things. You will learn to better your own writing, you will learn to better your social relations and use the confidence that flows from that. Yet, what is most important is that you have a literary log of where your life is going. Only a fool of a man will let himself write just about his failings; a healthy man will use his journal as a way to better himself and transcend the un-actualized aspects of his life.

Read More: America’s Culture Of Narcissism